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Colo. Physicians Back Legal Weed: 'It Is Time To Stop Criminalizing Adults For Using A Substance Less Harmful Than Alcohol'

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Pictured above are Dr. Bruce Madison, former associate medical director of the faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Dr. Larry Bedard, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians; Betty Aldworth, advocacy director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
Pictured above are Dr. Bruce Madison, former associate medical director of the faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Dr. Larry Bedard, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians; Betty Aldworth, advocacy director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

With less than 30 days until Election Day, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol got another strong endorsement for Amendment 64, the ballot measure that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate it like alcohol.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, the campaign announced that more than 300 Colorado physicians from more than 65 localities across the state support Amendment 64 and are calling for a "more commonsense policy" one that stops "criminalization of adults for using a substance less harmful than alcohol," as Dr. Larry Bedard, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement.

The pot advocacy group was joined by Bedard as well as Dr. Bruce Madison, former associate medical director of the University Physicians, the faculty practice at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and vice-chair of the Council on Legislation for the Colorado Medical Society as well as Dr. Christopher Unrein, past president of the Colorado Medical Society -- all of whom are among the more than 300 physicians who have signed in support of the initiative.

"As physicians we have a professional obligation to do no harm," Dr. Madison said in a statement. "But the truth is that the Colorado marijuana laws do just that, by wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in a failed War on Marijuana, by ruining thousands of lives by unnecessary arrest and incarceration, and by causing the deaths of hundreds of people killed in black-market criminal activities. I am proud to join all of the other Colorado physicians who support Amendment 64, a sensible measure whose time has come."

Amendment 64 has received support from both Democrats and Republicans in Colorado, the NAACP, former cops and other members of the law enforcement community as well as more than 100 professors from around the nation. The measure appears to be popular among Colorado voters with several recent state polls showing wide support.

The most recent poll from the University of Denver released over the weekend shows that Amendment 64 is still quite popular among Colorado voters. Fifty percent of likely voters said they support Amendment 64, compared to only 40 percent in opposition to it.

"These 300-plus physicians have joined more than 130 college professors in supporting Amendment 64 because the evidence is clear that our current system of marijuana prohibition has failed," Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana said. "It has not only been ineffective and incredibly wasteful, but also harmful to our citizens and our communities. Like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition has caused far more problems than it has solved, and it is time for a new approach. Eighty years ago, Colorado voters concerned about the health and safety of their families approved an initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition. We hope they will once again take a stand against prohibition at the polls this November."

If marijuana is legalized in Colorado it would be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older. According to the Associated Press, analysts project that that tax revenue could generate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects as much as a $60 million boost by 2017.

Dr. Bedard's statements on marijuana being less harmful than alcohol echo those of Mason Tvert's, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana, who, in an interview with The Huffington Post went into great detail about Amendment 64 and the perceived health danger that those in opposition to marijuana occasionally bring up saying, "Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far safer than alcohol and cigarettes for the consumer and the surrounding community. Alcohol and tobacco are more toxic, more addictive, and more harmful to the body than marijuana, and alcohol is more likely to result in injuries and lead to interpersonal violence."

Tvert, who has authored a book on the subject titled, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink? went on to say in The Huffington Post interview:

According to an assessment recently published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for marijuana consumers, and those for tobacco consumers are are 40 times greater than those for marijuana consumers. Our campaign has compiled a great deal of evidence regarding the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol at www.marijuana-vs-alcohol.org.

There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose in history, and there is no clear-cut case of a death attributed to marijuana use. Thus, it comes as little surprise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which track all causes of death in the United States, does not even have a category for marijuana use. It does, however, attribute upwards of 40,000 deaths per year to alcohol use, including hundreds of acute overdoses.

Voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state will all be considering whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use this November. This is the second time that Colorado voters will decide on pot legislation -- state voters considered and rejected a similar recreational pot legalization initiative in 2006.

CORRECTION: At Tuesday's press conference, Dr. Bruce Madison specified he was the former associate medical director of the faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. From 1997 to 2004, Dr. Bruce Madison served as the associate medical director of University Physicians, the faculty practice at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. A previous version of this story stated that that Madison was the current associate medical director.

States where medical marijuana is legal:

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